Not All God’s People Say, “Amen!”

Churches everywhere make statements, and do things that automatically place distance between themselves and those who are visiting for the first time. Let me set the scene.

It’s a rainy Sunday morning, and everyone’s trickled into the worship center a little late. The worship team was a little lethargic, and it took them a song or two to get into it. As they’re winding down the worship time, the pastor makes his way on to the platform to transition to the next part of the service, and prays a prayer. The prayer ends with the infamous phrase (to the insiders) in a louder tone: “And all God’s people said…” Wait for it – a boisterous congregation responds with, “Amen!” Have you been there?

I have, and we’ve all probably missed the guest behind us who was jolted by the unanimous thunder around them at that moment. How did they feel? More than likely they felt like an outsider, and it usually gets worse for them throughout the day. I’m not sure where this phrase or the countless other churchy phrases we use come from, but I do know they often alienate us from many guests in our churches.

Insider language creeps up so quickly in churches. We create stylish names for membership classes that don’t communicate what the class is all about or we place cool names on children’s ministry gatherings that always need further explanation. If the church should be the easiest place on the planet to connect with and grow in, then we should make sure we do everything possible to remove insider focused language.

How do you know if you have an insider language problem? Here are three things to consider:

1. You’re always explaining what everything means.
“How do I ________ here at the church?” If you’re always explaining how people can serve or get connected, you may be too insider focused. “What is the __________ all about?” Too many churches and ministries create names for classes and groups that need explaining; names should speak for themselves.

2. You’re not retaining first time guests.
If people feel like an outsider on their first visit, they’re more than likely not going to come back. Believe it or not, most churches don’t have a visitor problem, they have insider problem. When guests feel like they know what’s going on and where things are, they’re more likely to come back a second time.

3. You’re always using acronyms during announcements.
At Christ Fellowship, our favorite financial management and stewardship class is Financial Peace University by Dave Ramsey. We never – I mean never – refer to the class as FPU in a public setting. Why? No one knows what FPU stands for, especially guests. Speaking in acronyms is the simplest way to put distance between your church guests.

Our words matter. The Apostle Paul understood the importance of connecting with those outside the faith, just read his words in Acts 17. Every single thing we say during our worship services should connect with all people at every step on their spiritual journey, and communicate that ‘All are Welcome’. Take some time to think critically about what you’re hearing, and not hearing, this week at your church. Host a focus group with new families and ask them about what they experienced. Call several families who visited and never came back, ask them why.

Becoming an outsider focused church takes intentionality, most churches drift towards being insider focused without even knowing it.

Is your ministry insider or outsider focused? I’d love to hear how you stay outsider focused. Comment below.

9 Go-To Platform Statements for Multisite Leaders

Every week, multisite pastors and leaders stand atop a platform with a mic in their hand and make statements that either connect and engages their audience or ignores them altogether. Far too often, our words and phrases lack intention and connectivity. But, as campus pastors and multisite leaders, we must take advantage of each moment on the platform to make verbal connections with everyone in the room – first time guest or not.

1. “Thank you for saying yes to church today. We know that because you said yes to being here, you said no to being somewhere else, and we’re glad you did. Church is a choice, and we think you’ve made an excellent choice being here today.”
Recognizing that our new guests and regular attendees could have been anywhere else, goes a long way in connecting with them. Something or someone drew them here, and we should acknowledge that fact often.

2. “If you do one thing as a guest today, please fill out the Connection Card found in the seatback in front of you. Submitting a card is not about us getting your information, but rather a simple way to start a conversation.”
Guests often don’t know how to connect with our church at the next level, so we like to make the first step super easy.

3. “You’re sitting next to some of the most generous people I know.”
When the offering setup comes in the service, guests sometimes twist in their seats. I also like to relieve the pressure surrounding the “money” talk by letting them know no one invited them here to give today. At the same time, I’m letting them know giving is a significant part of our church culture.

4. “You might be just checking this whole church thing out; maybe your neighbor or friend promised you a meal if you came today. If that is you, we’re glad you’re here, and we’ve got about 35 minutes left to our service.”
Recognizing guests are visiting our church in response to an invite reinforces our invite culture in our church. Also, anytime I can forecast the remaining time or elements left in the service provides light at the end of the tunnel for newer guests.

5. “More than experiencing a great church today, we hope you experience the greatness of our God. He is the reason we gathered today. The songs we’ve been singing help us celebrate His greatness.”
I like to remind our guests and myself that the church experience is not our teams or even me, the service is about experiencing God’s presence and the person of the Holy Spirit.

6. “Just come back next week!”
I like to remind everyone at the end of our services that the most important thing they can do is to return next weekend, the weekend after, and so on. It’s our responsibility to help people understand the importance, and benefit of attending worship services week after week.

7. “We are one church that meets in multiple locations.”
Just because the regulars know we are a multisite church, it doesn’t mean the new guests know. I’m still surprised at the number of people who visit for the very first time, and don’t know we are a multisite church. I love helping our guests, and regular attendees think outside the four walls of our location.

8. “You might be hurting today, and we want you to know we are here for you. In fact, after service today our prayer team and staff will be available to pray with you.”
Every week people come to our churches looking for hope, healing, acceptance, and love. We’ve got to let them know up front that we’re here for them, and that prayer is not our last resort, but our first response.

9. “Showing up doesn’t mean you’re growing up. Take your next step and get connected.”
At first, this statement can seem harsh, but it is not aimed at guests, rather those who have been attending week after week, and have yet to get involved. It’s important to make the next step clear for everyone. At Christ Fellowship we encourage everyone to take The Journey – a 4-week experience. Following The Journey, the goal is to see everyone join a group and serve on the Dream Team at their location.

These are a sampling of the statements I often use to help connect with our guests, and increase the engagement of our regular attendees. Do you have some go-to phrases?

Comment below and share.

Stop Making Announcements!

Campus pastors are much more than announcement puppeteers. It pains me every time I hear campus pastors defined as the “announcement pastor.” Strategic campus pastors understand that platform time is about inspiration rather than information. Every time you hold the microphone, you have the opportunity to inspire everyone in the room to action. The campus pastor is the primary voice for volunteer engagement at the campus and what you say matters, it doesn’t have to fall on deaf ears.

Here are four ways I attempt to inspire people to action:

1. Aim for the majority, not the minority.

Without a doubt, you’ll be asked to inspire people in your seats to do just about anything and everything. Student Ministry carwash, the ladies bagels and Bible study, the men’s ministry football game, and to serve in the nursery. Feeling inspired? Me either. Here is a basic rule I apply when considering if an announcement is inspirational: If it doesn’t require 50% or more of the room to make a decision, it doesn’t get announced verbally. Our social media outlets have proven to be a great place to make additional announcements that don’t meet the above rule.

2. Start with why. 

Most people think they know what you want from them already, more of their money or more of their time, right? What they often don’t know is why. The why behind what you are asking people matters more than what you are asking them to do. One way to develop the why is to focus on what you want people to feel about the topic you’re addressing. Emotional connection moves people to action, stir the emotion. Spend more time on the why. Start with the why. Why are you supporting the local crisis pregnancy center? Why are you delivering meals on Thanksgiving morning? When people understand the why behind a project or outreach, they are more likely to get involved in some capacity.

3. Don’t ask everyone to do everything.

I think it is crucial for platform communicators to recognize the different stages of engagement people are at in their journey with a church. Not everyone is ready or capable of contributing to every opportunity at hand, acknowledge that. I find it helpful to recognize that some people need to receive in certain seasons or that some opportunities are for those who already connected. Identify your target audience clearly and inspire them to action. What do you want them to do? Everyone can’t do everything, nor should they. Give people the permission to chose their level of engagement.

4. Make it memorable. 

Tell a story. If you’re inspiring people to get baptized, tell your audience a recent story of how someone went public with their faith. Use humor. Making people laugh creates a memory and emotion they won’t forget anytime soon. Don’t forget the power of illustrations and images. People are visual and when they can visualize themselves in the picture, their interest and engagement peaks. 

I hope this helps you to think critically about how you use your platform time this weekend. I’d love to hear what you do to inspire people to action.